HIMYM and NYC life on TV

I was going to write a review of the “How I Met Your Mother” series finale, but watching it left me too frustrated to say anything thoughtful, so no discussion or spoilers to worry about here.

But thinking about the show, which I only got into by binge-watching in the spring of 2012 until I was caught up, made me think about how New York is portrayed on television and in movies. So much is filmed here, like bits of Spider-Man 2 in my old neighborhood of Windsor Terrace, or television shows like “Elementary”, or whatever show’s trailers I walked by in the West Village tonight. The city is showcased all over the place, though sometimes it is faked, like the movie Friends with Benefits spoofed in its movie-within-a-movie.

More interesting to me, though, is how the lives of New Yorkers are portrayed. So here are four ways life in New York is not always like how you see it onscreen – and one way it is.

  1. New York is much more diverse than on TV. “How I Met Your Mother” has been criticized for having a mostly white cast. New York is a big, beautiful, diverse city, and having a show about five white friends ignores that, which was a lost opportunity for the show.
  1. We don’t all live above a bar where we spend all our time with friends. HIMYM has MacLaren’s bar as its hangout, and “Friends” had Central Perk coffee shop. I’ve never lived above a bar (though I did live above a liquor store for a couple years), and I don’t have a regular place to hang out with friends every night, or even every week. Plenty of twenty-somethings do weekly happy hours with friends or coworkers, but that’s still not on par with the amount of time our TV friends spend at their local hangouts.
  1. TV apartments are much bigger than real life ones. I don’t know anyone with an apartment as nice as the one in “How I Met Your Mother”. I’m sure they exist, but I’m equally sure no twenty-somethings live in them. “Friends” also suffered from this misrepresentation. Look, guys, I know it’d be hard to film in my old 400-square foot two-bedroom apartment, but something slightlymore realistic would be nice.
  1. Friends come and go much more than on HIMYM and “Friends”. As much fun as it was watching the gangs’ relationships evolve in HIMYM and “Friends”, I don’t think many people stick with the same core group of friends for a decade. It’s not that people stop being friends, it’s just that people move in and out of NYC, change jobs, get married… Even if you stay at the same company, like I have, many of your friends leave and work elsewhere. People you knew from college and lived with after graduation, like Ted and Lily and Marshall, will move to other cities or other states. People you knew in college but weren’t close to will move to New York years after graduation and you’ll become friends. Instead of one circle, you might have several – work friends, college friends, neighborhood friends, book club friends, sports friends, and more. It’s different for everyone, and while I understand why a show with a tight knit group of friends is compelling and easier to create, someday it’d be interesting to have a show that followed one or two characters as their lives grew and changed.
  1. But, it’s true, you have to really like someone to go to Brooklyn to see them. And I say that as someone who lives in Brooklyn, because unless I’m already there for work, you have to have a darn good reason to drag me to Manhattan.

HIMYM had an episode where the gang discussed what it means to be a real New Yorker. I’ve yet to steal a cab from someone who needs it more (cabs are too expensive to take regularly, plus I get carsick); I’ve never seen Woody Allen (and don’t really care to); I’ve probably teared up on the subway but I’m not sure I’ve out and out cried… yet; and while haven’t killed cockroach with my bare hands, I have killed a lot of cockroaches – and have lived in an apartment with rats. By HIMYM standards I’m not a true New Yorker yet, but give me a few seasons more and I’ll see what I can do.

What do you think TV shows get right about life in New York, and what do they get terribly wrong? Any recommendations on other set-in-NYC shows or movies I should check out?

PS Added a few photos to my Charleston post here.


2 thoughts on “HIMYM and NYC life on TV

  1. First off, you probably walked by the Dangerous Liaisons trailers—they were all over the village yesterday. And second, you can substitute “New Jersey” for “Brooklyn” in your fifth point!

    If you want to talk HIMYM finale over lunch or drinks, let me know. Maybe Woody Allen will show up holding a cockroach and yelling “I'm walking here!” to an elderly woman…


  2. That must be it! My friend and I also walked by guys with cameras who we assumed were paparazzi, but sadly did not see anyone famous. And hey, you got me to New Jersey! …..once. 🙂

    Yes to lunch or drinks! But no to Woody Allen and/or cockroaches, especially while we're eating.


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